Department of Defense Releases the Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has placed pressure on relations between the US military, domestic security, and law enforcement organizations. As a result, the relations are becoming more fluid; this positions the military to increase its advantage in domestic security issues. Last month, the Department of Defense, (DOD) released its ?Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,? a report that stated: “Our adversaries consider US territory an integral part of a global theater of combat.” The report further stated: “We must therefore have a strategy that applies to the domestic context the key principles that are driving the transformation of US power projection and joint expeditionary warfare? The Posse Comitatus Act mandates legal limits on military engagement in civilian matters. The document usually prohibits the Army and the Air Force from involving itself without specific authorization. However, there are exceptions to those defined constraints and pending legislation would modify them further. The report defines strategic goals and objectives while providing direction to homeland defense activities it deems relevant. Such activities include deterring and preventing attacks, protection of critical defense and civilian infrastructure, providing situational comprehension, and preparation and response to terrorist incidents. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England called the Strategy, ?the next significant milestone in reshaping the department?s approach to homeland defense.? England said, ?It constitutes the department?s vision for transforming homeland defense and civil support capabilities and will improve significantly the department?s ability to counter threats of the 21st Century.? The new DOD strategy targets the development of needed transformational capabilities and points to the need of focused maritime awareness and response capability, tighten collective security, and improved support to civilian authorities. A report by the Congressional Research Service that was updated on May 27, 2005 noted some legal restrictions on military assistance relevant to domestic law enforcement following a terrorist attack. The report, “Terrorism: Some Legal Restrictions on Military Assistance to Domestic Authorities Following a Terrorist Attack,” states unlawful use of the armed forces may result in liability of a civil or criminal nature and impede the prosecution of terrorists. It has been stated repeatedly that cooperation of all intelligence agencies, military, and law enforcement is critical to combat the GWOT. The Posse Comitatus Act serves a purpose; the general intent was to safeguard decisions made. Legislation could change that. The new DOD strategy was crafted to address the homeland defense mission to support civil authorities. It is a start.